General Question

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

How do I advocate for fair treatment at work?

Asked by LeavesNoTrace (5674points) February 25th, 2015

Just to preempt this question, I’m not interested in a lawsuit and I don’t believe my problem is legally actionable in NYS (an at-will employment state).

I’m a 26-year-old young professional woman in NYC who works in marketing for a small business of about twenty employees. Only about ten of us work in my office.

I’ve worked here for about eighteen months, and my primary function is marketing, content writing, and client service support. I do not lack in higher-level responsibilities, and my role is highly visible in the company. I had about two years of employment before I started, including international work experience in marketing roles and a consistent roster of freelance clients as a content writer, editor and blogger. I’m poised, professional and articulate. I’m also somewhat feminine (my friend/coworker often refers to me as “Joan”) and soft-spoken which I think is perceived as a weakness.

I wasn’t hired as an administrative assistant, but we don’t have anyone who has that job title. So as the newest person in the company, I’ve become the defacto for every mundane task or errand…answering the phone, ordering lunches, playing go-fer for every little thing anyone wants. It all falls to me! And this is on top of all of my higher level responsibilities, including maintaining the blog, sales site, lead generation, newsletter publication, editorial responsibilities and submitting my own written work to trade magazines under my own byline. My skills are marketable and getting stronger as time passes.

The person who was hired before me only had to play admin for six months before I was hired, and every since I was hired I’ve been treated like an underling and taken for granted. My colleagues interuppt me at meetings and don’t take my suggestions into account. The only person who listens to or respects me professionally is my director, who tells me to “hang in there” and that it will “get better”.

This week, I hit my breaking point. I came in an hour late (as my colleagues often do) and received a terse email from the CEO saying that I need to be there at 9 to answer phones and “support [him] and everybody else.” I just about lost and replied with the following missive:

Hi Mike,

I’m sorry I was late this morning. There was a train delay at 59th St. and Anna wasn’t able to get my text because no cell service on the PATH train. I certainly do not want you worried about phones or office support.

That said, I will make every effort to be here at 9:00 am from now on barring a rare emergency. If something does come up, I will email or call you and Anna immediately and give you a heads-up.

I understand that having all hands on deck will be even more important during your March absence, but I would also appreciate if I was not the only person tasked with office and admin support duties in general—or the only one expected to work a 9:00–6:00pm day when many others in the office are quite fluid with their time.

You may not be aware, but there have been innumerable times when I’ve had to tear myself away from something to dash across the office to answer an ignored phone or worked late into the night to compensate for time lost while doing office errands or other administrative tasks that need to be attended to. (Particularly around busy times of the year, like the annual meeting.)

As you can see, it would be much better if everyone worked together to accomplish these tasks.


He didn’t reply to the email directly but he did stop me in the hallway telling me he wanted to talk about it. He seemed somewhat humbled, but I don’t think he really “gets it”. The conversation never happened and now he’s out of the office for a month. (How convenient, right?)

I’d also like to add that I’m now the lowest compensated employee in the company (except for one part-timer who works remotely). I know it’s not fair that I’m held to a higher standard for lower pay and it’s making me bitter and resentful. Yesterday, I upgraded my LinkedIn to “Jobseeker Pro” and I’m weighing my options. Do I fight this battle or do I just move on? I was hoping to put in at least two years before I did something else and wanted to continue learning the skills I’m developing to make me more employable elsewhere.

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50 Answers

jca's avatar

I have one question: are you often late?

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

It was the first time it was brought to my attention, and many of my coworkers come in later than I do and have nothing said to them.

My director said that in the winter and with NYC public transportation it’s understandable if I want to start at 10:00 because I often take work home with me as well. (I’m a salaried employee).

I was the only one out of MANY other “offenders” who was singled out for this.

jca's avatar

I asked because if it’s habitual, that may be the reason for his memo.

It is unfortunate, but not uncommon, that some employees get away with certain things while others don’t. I don’t think that pointing fingers at others is the best way to advocate for oneself. That’s not saying it’s fun to be on the “short end” when it comes to others getting away with things that you are disciplined for, but coworkers don’t appreciate being pointed at and management may look askance when the defense is “but everybody else does it.” What we tell people is “worry about yourself. Don’t worry about what other people are doing.” That’s also not saying that this is the only issue you have, because I can see it’s not.

I don’t understand what you meant when you said “I’m also somewhat feminine.” Does that mean “delicate?” Or were you referring to your type of clothing? Lace and stuff like that?

LuckyGuy's avatar

You wrote “Yesterday, I upgraded my LinkedIn to “Jobseeker Pro” ”
I am not sure what that means. Is that information secret or does it signal to them that you are now looking around and do not plan to stay?

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

Certainly, I don’t want to be a tattle-tale and I’m not looking to dodge responsibility. But it’s objectively unjust that I am the only one who is expected to work longer hours for lower pay. I would certainly never say “But so-and-so was late today, too! Seeee????”, but it bears mentioning that it if you hold one person to a standard, it should be applied unilaterally unless there are special accommodations made.

By somewhat feminine, I mean exactly what I said. I’m conventionally attractive and soft-spoken. We don’t have an office dress code outside of client-facing activities, but I dress appropriately don’t wear revealing clothing or excessive accessories. I favor knee-length dresses in soft colors. My personality is naturally “easy going” and I tend to be a people-pleaser, which may be part of the problem. I also have a soft, somewhat “girlish” voice, which I’m working on, but it’s hard to change something that’s so natural for me. I don’t use “like” or have “vocal fry” a la Kim Kardashian” or anything that cringe-worthy.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar


Jobseeker Pro is a paid tier of LinkedIn which you use to find and apply for jobs. However, my company will not be able to see that I’m jobseeking or applying.

jca's avatar

I wasn’t thinking you’re saying “So and so was late today, see?” I am saying if your work hours are 9 to 5, then if you’re there at 9, there’s no complaining they can do. As far as the standard they hold others to, it may not be fair, but if you deal with your work hours then you’ve accomplished what is expected, as far as your time goes.

It’s unclear as to whether taking work home is something that was expected from Day 1, maybe you can argue that you worked X amount of hours at home and therefore they might cut you some slack as far as your lateness, but as far as the standard they hold others to, it seems that since, in their mind, you’re the low end of the totem pole, you should be more inflexible with the hours you work than the others.

I work for an organization that advocates for employees, and the one thing we usually tell our employees is that we can’t argue for lateness. Some may have issues that perhaps can be worked out, such as having to put a child on the bus or a sick parent at home (it’s government so they tend to be more liberal as far as understanding employees’ issues go) but in general, if someone is habitually late, there’s really not much of a defense for it.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

I stand by my assertion that I should not be the only one expected to work a 9-hour day while everyone else wanders in and out as they see fit. My title is not “secretary” or “assistant to…” nor is administrative support in my job description.

Higher standard for lower compensation is not okay and I’m not going to go “go silently into the night” on this one.

I wish it wouldn’t be career suicide to tell them if they want to have me be the office “Girl Friday” on top of my real role, they can give me a $25,000 annual raise to cover what they would normally pay an office administrator/receptionist.

janbb's avatar

The crucial issue seems to be whose job it is to cover the phones. The person who does that can’t be on flex-time. Is this something you knew was part of the job or did they just throw it at you? That needs to be discussed. (And by the way, I doubt your boss went away for a month just to avoid talking to you.)

Are you the only woman around? Do you feel you are being discriminated because of that?

It does sound like you are fairly fed up with this job, so putting feelers out is a good idea.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar


The main phone line rings on everyone’s desk so anyone can pick it up.

I’m usually the fastest one to it so I’ve become the go-to person. Honestly, I don’t mind it for the most part but everyone else is capable if I’m otherwise occupied. As I stated in my note to my boss, there have been many times when others have ignored a ringing phone they could have easily answered. This leaves me dashing around the office like a mad woman because nobody else can be bothered! I’m starting to really resent my coworkers and I feel like a chump.

I’m not the only woman around, but I’m the youngest one. “Discrimination” would be too litigious a word, but it does feel a little bit biased and I don’t think that the men faced this treatment for for years on end when they were hired.

I’m also sick of being pulled away from important projects I’m working on (ones that drive our sales cycle and our bottom line) to attend to menial tasks others could do for themselves. It’s thankless and demeaning. If I’m going to be worked like this, I believe I should be able to afford to pay down my credit card and have at least a modest savings account.

CWOTUS's avatar

Two things here:

1. You’ve suffered in silence for quite some time – which can also be interpreted as “paying your dues”, as I would have regarded it, and I think as you probably also regarded it until now – but you have apparently been “in silence” as far as Mike and perhaps others at his level, and that’s kind of important.

2. The issues you want to raise have not yet been fully raised or communicated to Mike. (You won’t blame him for the coincidence of his planned vacation and your recent – and rare – incident with tardiness and being incommunicado while that occurred. At least, you won’t blame him for that when you calm down to your normal professional self.)

So Mike has not been aware of the problems of your position AND he hasn’t had time to become fully aware, much less “to do anything” about that between then and the start of his vacation.

You’re never wrong to shop around for a better opportunity somewhere else, but I wouldn’t leave a job that I generally liked over “unresolved issues” that have not even been communicated yet. That would demonstrate a certain lack of resolve on your part (if only to yourself) that will not serve you well.

Wait for Mike to return from vacation and get back to a routine, and in the meantime plan a discussion with him over your legitimate grievances – but especially with your positive suggestion for how to make the entire “office management process” work better for all (not just you) – and determine to ask for a substantial raise at the same time. If things don’t improve after that, or if your raise request is summarily rejected with no explanation, then when you leave you can honestly say that you tried, and point to the positive steps that you took to attempt resolution.

EDIT: It’s not that you need to advocate for “fairer treatment”, or not entirely that. I’m reminded of a welding team that we had on a boiler once (bear with me here; it’s relevant to your situation) where one day the welder’s helper didn’t show up, so he shared a helper with a second welder. Normally the welders are not 100% active, as they have to change position from time to time, change electrodes every few minutes, wait for the helper to prep the next joint or move cables or reset the machine (which is remote from the weld area). So while the helper is doing his thing, the welder can take a short break. And while the welder is active, the helper can normally find time to take his own breather. When the two welders shared the helper, then he was running from one to the other, and having a hard time finding time for a cigarette break or rest of any kind. (Not literally “running”, but “busy in the way many people are busy at work, and not taking 50% downtime while on the clock”.) He complained to the foreman that it wasn’t fair, because he didn’t have the same FOT as the welders he was working with. “FOT?” asked the foreman, “What’s that?” “I need my fuck-off time!” was the response. That helper was gone in the next round of layoffs. His ambition was to seek “fairness” – to get the same FOT as every other helper (and welder) in the plant – but it wasn’t helping production, and it’s not a reasonable expectation to have 50% downtime.

jca's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace: It’s not clear from your response to @janbb‘s question whether or not answering phones is part of your job description/responsibilities, or is it something that has been communicated to you as your responsibility? Or just something you’ve taken upon yourself to do? It seems from the memo you received that it’s expected of you.

janbb's avatar

Just one point to make – it is often the lowest paid, newer or clerical people in a place that are the lowest paid and work the hardest.

And if the phones are not part of your job description and you are the only one covering them, that issue needs to be addressed and some re-organization done.

It does sound like a long discussion with Mike is warranted and if changes to your satisfaction are not made, you should consider leaving. But it would help if you could not go in with a chip on your shoulder.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Your Director needs to give you a Key Job Responsibilities, a written job description that you are reviewed on at set number of times a year. It sounds like there may not be a HR department and that can cause issues in the company.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

I was hired as a marketing professional, not an admin assistant. My bosses think I have a “pleasant phone voice” so they’ve asked me to answer them if I can, but it was never intended to by solely in my purview.

Like I said, I don’t mind being the go-to person for phone, but it should not fall solely into my lap if I’m otherwise occupied. Nor should I be expected to work 10+ extra hours a week for lower pay when it’s otherwise not enforced amongst the others. I’m justifiably angry about that and anyone who says otherwise is being myopic. My bosses are always talking about fair. Where’s my taste of fair?

However, the CEO is a 76-year old man who can be little “out of touch”, and might not fully appreciate the effects of unfair treatment on an individual employee because he’s otherwise occupied in a demanding role.. Just to be clear, of course I’m aware he didn’t go on vacation to avoid me. What I’m saying is that he very likely wanted to appear sympathetic in the moment without actually discussing the issue at hand or doing anything to come to a resolution. He was offering a momentary placation in the hopes that I’ll sit down, shut up, and obey like a “good girl”. The fact that he’s now on vacation is convenient because now the issue will “go away” with no action required on his part.

It’s a great deal for my company! I’m a two for the price of one employee!!!

jca's avatar

It sounds as if the CEO expects you to be there and answer phones, whatever your opinion is of that.

It also sounds as if the best thing for you would be to look for employment elsewhere. As @janbb pointed out, it’s usually the lowest paid, newer or clerical people in a place that are the lowest paid and work the hardest. I expect you may have this issue at the next place you go to, because of what @janbb pointed out, and also because of the lateness issue which you don’t seem to perceive as your problem or responsibility.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar


Do you think it’s justifiable that an instance of tardiness would only be enforced for a single employee? We’re an organization that prides itself on having a relatively flat hierarchy and supporting one another as we can. This treatment seems out of line with our company culture.

Today, like many days, several of my colleagues wandered in after 10am.

I agree, I should be on time, as much as everyone else needs to be. The same standard should apply unilaterally unless I’m being given permission to leave early, which I have not been offered.

I’m not a clerical worker, I’m a skilled young professional who produces good work. I don’t deserve to be treated like a plebe or micromanaged while everyone else has wiggle room.

(By my calculation, I should be making an additional $250.00 USD a week for the 10 extra hours I’ll be forced to work.)

jca's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace: In my opinion, it’s your attitude that has to change, but others may feel differently.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

@jca I’ve presented my issue clearly and fairly. I’m sorry you feel that way but if you were in my shoes, I think you would understand.

Why do you think it’s justifiable that I’m forced to do work that’s not clearly stated in my job description when everyone is capable of pitching in?

This article was very interesting to me and I related to a lot that was said. You should give it a read if you have time.

keobooks's avatar

I had a friend who told me not to focus or look at what others “get away with” because you have no way of knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. Also, unless they have the exact title you do, they may have different responsibilities that you don’t know about.

jca's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace: I understand what you are saying, but I don’t think your opinion will hold water, especially since you got the memo from the CEO about what he expects of you. It’s not my opinion, it’s the CEO’s opinion. If you can change that, that would be a great thing.

I, too, used to be late a lot at work. I rearranged my morning routine and now am early. At no time during my latenesses did I look at the schedules of others, since to me, that’s comparing apples to oranges.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar


My director has told me that she’s on my side about this issue and will advocate for me. I keep trying to remember that even though I’m frustrated right now.

I agree that I should continue to be on time, regardless of what others are doing and let it alone for a while. However, I don’t want my lifelong title to be “office doormat” nor do I think I can spend much longer underappreciated and tasked with pink collar, menial tasks. We’re trying to hire a new entry-level employee in the coming months. Hopefully, that will nudge me off the bottom of the totem pole and I can transition those tasks to him or her in a a reasonable fashion. That would be a win/win and would appeal to my sense of “fair”.

It’s not just about money, or how I feel, it’s about striking a balance that gives everyone what they need while keeping the business running smoothly.

gailcalled's avatar

Next time the phones ring, leave your desk for a trip to the bathroom on the first ring. Move quickly and evince some urgency. See what happens.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar


I’ll be chugging water all day just to test the theory! ;)

CugelTheClueless's avatar

OP: have you considered being your own boss and working exclusively as a freelancer? If you are willing to accept what that would entail, then you don’t have to take shit from anyone because you have an out.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar


The thought has crossed my mind more than once, but I’d like to build some financial stability before having a go at it. My current job offers basic health insurance, which is necessary for me to feel “stable”. I’d also like to build some more hard professional skills before I make that my sole income source.

gondwanalon's avatar

Where I work you are considered “tardy” if you clock in exactly on time. If you are tardy more than 3 times in 2 weeks you get a derogatory counseling statement. Get 3 or more derogatory counseling statement in a year and you get a bad performance review. Habitually late or tardy is just not tolerated at all.

Cupcake's avatar

If a new person is hired and that person doesn’t pick up the secretarial tasks (as you have and the people before you did), then you have an issue to address.

I would have a quick chat with my boss. It sounds like you have engaged in an informal contract that you will answer phones “if you can” for no additional compensation. I would ask for clarification on “if you can”. Are you expected to answer the phone if the phone rings while you are occupied with your primary job responsibilities? If so, then you clarify the issue of your work hours. Are you expected to work beyond an 8 hour work day if your work is interrupted for clerical tasks? If so, will this expectation to work extra to be able to cover clerical tasks be eliminated when a new person is hired?

I would not discuss my desire for additional compensation. You don’t deserve to be paid at your professional rate for clerical work. It has already been discussed that clerical work is often the lowest paid… and you are the newest/lowest person on the totem pole.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar


To clarify, once more, I was not hired as a clerical worker. I am a marketing and content writing specialist. I just happen to be younger than my colleagues and they haven’t hired a new person in nearly two years.

I’m hoping that I can gradually transition my admin tasks to the next person hired and that that this career will show some potential for advancement/better compensation at my two-year review.

Cupcake's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace I get it, loud and clear.

I’ll bet everyone has job tasks assigned that are neither paid nor in their job description.

Your boss asked you to answer phones when you are able. You agreed. My opinion/advice stand.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar


That’s pretty standard for hourly employees where your time is literally money. Me and all of my coworkers are salaried and one of the things we’re supposed to love about our job is the relative flexibility we have in terms of hours.


Yes, but it’s unethical when one person is bearing way more burden than others. My job role is clear and I’m being taken advantage of because it’s easier to step on the neck of a 26-year-old woman than ask everyone else to pull more of their weight OR hire a proper administrative professional.

jca's avatar

As far as answering phones goes, yes, others may be able to answer their own phones, but when the main line rings, someone has to be responsible to answer it between certain hours. If the task is given to you by the CEO, and you’re not there, and because you’re late nobody knows where you are or when you will be expected, then someone else has to do your job. That’s not always looked upon as productive or efficient.

I had a job like you have when I was in college. It was a few days a week and the phones would ring and no matter what I was doing or where I was, I had to run (literally run) to answer them. It was not efficient and it bothered me to the point where I lost sleep, feeling unappreciated. I graduated from college and moved on.

I understand now more about offices and also, as I said I work for an organization that advocates for employees, so I get it as far as what is generally ok and what’s not ok. In the private sector, which is what you work in, fair is not always the way things are run. Actually, in the public sector, which is what I work in, things are not always fair either. However, where I work, employees have more of a say so. Where you work, it’s usually love it or leave it. As long as laws are not broken (i.e. civil liberties, human rights, etc.) the employer can fire you at whim. “You’ve been late x amount of times and we’ve documented our counseling sessions. I’m sorry. Please don’t return Monday.” Where I work, there’s more of a court battle ahead if they try to do that.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar


My director agrees that I should not be marginalized like this.

I don’t mind answering the phone if it’s convenient for me—and often it is—but I’d sooner be dipped in sh*t than drop my coffee or stop a (work-related) conversation to dash across the room while someone stands there with their thumb up their arse. The days of Mad Men-style workplaces are long over and I’m not standing for poor treatment.

And the requirement of longer hours should beget more pay.

jca's avatar

So what it boils down to is that you don’t think you should be the only one to answer the phone and you feel you should be able to come to work after 10 like the others do?

LeavesNoTrace's avatar


I should not be the only one expected to answer the phone since our phone system was set up to reduce the need for a dedicated phone person. If I’m the first person to grab it, fine. I’m basically a Pavlovian dog at this point so it will likely usually be me, which is fine as long as it’s not expected 100% of the time.

I realized that they’ve become too dependent on me while I was giving a presentation one day and had to interrupt MYSELF and leave the conference room to answer the phone. Nobody even bothered to make an attempt!
And yes, I should not be the only one expected to be a paragon of Swiss punctuality when my colleagues are free to wander in at 10 and leave at 5 as they fancy. I’ve paid my dues long enough to deserve a modicum of equal treatment. I’m not a receptionist, I’m not a secretary, I’m not their mother, and for the love of God, don’t call me “Joan”. _

jca's avatar

But to clarify, you think you should be able to come to work after 10 like the others do?

Haleth's avatar

@jca I would agree with you, but it doesn’t sound like her boss asked her to do this. It sounds like more of a gradual creeping process where she took on a shared responsibility by default. My advice here is based on that.

@LeavesNoTrace I’m a woman in my 20s in a male-dominated industry, so this is very familiar. There are a few things you can do to improve your situation. I would do all of these at once.

1) Find written evidence of your job description. There might be a job posting you answered, e-mails from your hiring process, or a written job offer.

2) Stop doing extra work for free. Let the phone ring until someone gets it, no matter how much you really really really want to get the phone.

It will take some reinforcement for people to get the idea. It’s easy to jump to something if you are the best and fastest at it. But being the best receptionist is less valuable than building sales. If someone (especially a lateral co-worker!) takes issue, tell them you were following an important sales lead or working on a big marketing project.

This is changing the underlying assumptions of a situation. So the unspoken rule becomes “I am building revenue, so I’m unavailable for that task” rather than “I have free time and would love to order your lunch.”

Next move on to errands. Other than supervisors, nobody has the authority to farm out these tasks to you. If a co-worker asks you to fetch coffee, always be too busy because you are working toward the bottom line. Ignore unspoken expectations; do your job description to the letter.

3) While you’re doing this, work even harder at marketing and sales. It will give you more ammo to defend your actions (because you will probably have to.)

Emphasize the importance and effectiveness of your work. If you make a big sale, tell your boss. Or even better, e-mail them; cc people as often as possible. Speak up in meetings and show that you’re competent and assertive. I can see it from the tone of your writing, so you can totally do that in person.

If you want to stay here, ask for more responsibility in higher-level work. If you worked on marketing campaigns before, push to lead one. Brainstorm some earth-shaking, innovative thing you could do here. The more you raise your profile, the less you will be the person who gets the phone.

4) Schedule a meeting with the director and the CEO to lay out your job description. Set it up over an e-mail to both of them with your concerns (and an HR person, if your company has one.) If you found any evidence of #1, attach it to the e-mail.

It sounds like you’d be happy with either admin help or a raise. Don’t argue from a position of unfairness or mistreatment- it’s not compelling. Instead, argue that these tasks keep you from working at the top of your job. When you leave a valuable sales lead to answer someone else’s call, it hurts the bottom line. Explain that your position needs to be re-written for admin work and a raise, or they need to hire an admin person by a specific date.

5) In the mean time, actively job search. It will be easier to build experience at a job where you’re happy. From this thread, you’re good at clearly stating your qualifications. Being assertive and well-spoken can make up for limited experience. Be prepared to take a good offer, and be prepared for your current place to counter.

Last fall, I felt burned out and hopeless at work. I asked fluther for advice on getting a raise. The consensus was that I would not get one, and should tough it out. I looked for new jobs and accepted an offer. My boss counteroffered with a hefty raise, more vacation, and a better work schedule. Not all of the advice here is helpful.

In the workplace, always assert yourself. Being assertive doesn’t mean walking over other people or shouting them down. It can be as simple as asking questions, making suggestions, and taking the lead. You can do that and be feminine.

“Nobody even bothered and when I stared at them blankly, they looked at me like I had three heads!” That’s fucking bananas. Next time calmly ask, “is someone going to get that?” and keep going. It’s a great story to bring up in your meeting. That phone call wasted everyone’s time while they waited for you. If it was a five minute call, and there were 20 people, it wasted 100 minutes of company time.

Your workplace has gotten used to you not asserting yourself. You will have to develop steely nerves to pull this off. Even trying is worthwhile, because assertiveness will carry you through your whole career.

Haleth's avatar

And the pulitzer prize for longest answer goes to…!

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I haven’t read all the posts above. I read a large number of them.

I think you’re justified in feeling aggrieved and I agree that being a people pleaser and a softer, feminine female is working against you. You can’t do much about how you look or speak but you can do something about being a people pleaser. Don’t be the first to answer the phone. Let it ring a couple of times and give other people an opportunity to answer it.

Beyond that, have you thought of going back over your job description (if you have one) and creating a portfolio of the work you do and the benefits that work brings to the company? Try connecting your job description/role to your knowledge and experience and develop an overview of where you feel you might be better used? I’d wait until your boss gets back, let him get through the door and settle in, and organise to go and speak to him. Ask him to explain to you what he sees as your top priorities in terms of the work you do. Don’t be whiny (I’m sure you won’t but I’m saying it anyway). Do be assertive but not aggressive. Do be very organised and clear about the skills, experience and knowledge you bring to your work – beyond being an admin assistant. Without bagging your peers, explain that you feel your skills and knowledge are being under utilised. Politely ask him to spell out how he sees your role in the firm and how he sees this role developing in the future.

Perhaps try to observe how other women in the office behave and are treated. Is it just you who’s being treated this way? Or is it a problem for all the women (if there are others)? How do they dress? Can you gradually start to emulate their dress style to give you a more professional, stronger and less feminine presentation?

If speaking to your boss to clarify your position doesn’t work, then yes, I think you will need to look elsewhere. I’d try to resolve the problem here first though. If your boss says your priority is your writing/marketing work, make that your priority and if someone asks you to do admin work, let them know you won’t be able to do that until you finish the other work and suggest they take on that admin task. If they complain, send them to the boss.

gondwanalon's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace Typically when workers have flexible hours there is an expectation to notify management any plans to change working hours in advance of changing them. The management as well as coworkers need to know when to expect you to be at work. If you can just willy-nilly change your working hours without telling anyone then you pretty much have an exceptional job.

archananair's avatar

I feel if you are particular about your work or people in office are giving you such work for which you are not hire then you should speak out.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar


My clothes are not the issue. We have a casual dress office and I dress modestly and appropriately. Your other suggests are helpful, though. Thank you.

I certainly do not think I should change my work hours willy nilly without notification. I was underground stranded on an NYC subway and texted my coworker to notify her of my lateness. (We have an agreement to cover each others asses during emergencies and have a very good rapport.)

This is a rare occurance but to be singled out as the office scapegoat is not acceptable to me.

jca's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace: I don’t believe you ever actually answered the question about how often you are late. You said “this is a rare occurrence” and I understand the example you gave was something exceptional that happened (stuck in subway), but on the other days, are you there at 9? I ask because when we go to represent employees in disciplinary proceedings (which is what I do for a living), and the subject of their lateness comes up, we’ll ask exactly how often they’re late. When it comes to black and white, it’s very often that they’re late several times a week. I know you said “And yes, I should not be the only one expected to be a paragon of Swiss punctuality” but my question is how often are you late?

keobooks's avatar

About your clothes. You may dress appropriately, but I’ve read many articles that stated that casual office attire kills it for women in the work place. Many articles I’ve read suggest that women dress a step or two above what’s expected at work to be taken seriously.

It’s not a matter of fairness, but its a way to add some authority to your appearance. Men can rely on height or a deep voice or a “masculine” appearance. Women—especially more feminine looking women have to boost themselves with a bit more serious wardrobe than everyone else.

Haleth's avatar

Here’s a thought. What if you went nuclear? Definitely meet with the CEO and director, like I said above. But also tell them that you’re going to bring it up with everyone in the office, either in a mass e-mail or at the next team meeting. Ask for them to back you up when you make your announcement. Then say something like:

“Hi everyone,

I’d like to clear up a misunderstanding. Recently I have taken care of all the administrative tasks here. This shared responsibility has fallen to me by default, as the most recent hire. Don’t say youngest or female, it will make people defensive. Also don’t say junior. My job description does not include administrative work. I am responsible for sales leads and marketing.

These are supposed to be shared tasks, so I will no longer be ordering lunches or answering every phone call. Doing this takes me away from work that is important to the company’s bottom line. Don’t bring up the extra hours it adds to your schedule. Everyone else there also has some grievance, and will sound whiny. From now on I will take one call every hour, and I suggest you all do the same. [CEO] and [director] are on board with this. Please refer to them if you have any questions.”

Maybe someone here can help with the wording. If you do something like this, it’s important to bring in some higher-up allies first. Until you meet with him, your CEO (is he your direct boss?) may have no idea that this is going on.

@keobooks That’s been my experience. Young woman have to push harder to be taken seriously in the workplace. When I started this job (retail wine buyer), I was 24. Everyone questioned my decisions. Even our vendors (who, ahem, work for commission) weren’t shy about it. People would walk into the store, look around, look behind me, then ask me if they could speak to a manager or wine person. Nobody ever assumed I was that person. Stuff like that still happens- I’ll ask a customer if they need help, they say no, and a minute or two later they ask a male staff member their wine question.

I’ve had to seriously upgrade my wardrobe and start throwing my weight around. There are still a few stubborn holdouts, like this one obnoxious old goat who constantly mansplains. But it’s getting better.

One time I stayed over at my folk’s house and went to work the next day. They were so surprised that I dress up like this to work in a wine store. Rachel, Donna, and Jessica on Suits are my style inspiration. They are killing it with the ladies’ work wear.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

Hi @keobooks
My work attire today is a knee length houndstooth dresses with black tights and flats. I don’t usually wear jeans UNLESS it’s one of those bitterly cold days where anything else would be suicide on my long walk to and from the train. The CEO also dresses very casually FYI.

@jca I’ll admit that with the amount of train delays we’ve had this winter, I’ve been about 15–30 mins late about 2x a week. But not often am I an hour late and incommunicado like I was that one day last week. Morever, like I said before, my colleagues (not superiors) meander in and out as they please.

chyna's avatar

Unfortunately you will be the “new kid on the block” until they hire someone else.
It seems to me that someone must’ve mentioned that you were late a lot and the big boss is too busy with work to notice that anyone else is late.
I think all you can do is stop being late, tell people you are too busy to run their errands and make a point of looking like you are on your phone and can’t answer other calls.

jca's avatar

I don’t think that looking at one’s phone would be a valid excuse for not fulfilling one’s job responsibilities.

chyna's avatar

^ Not looking at a phone but being on the phone on another call.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace, I’m not suggesting your dress is inappropriate. However, our dress can send implicit messages we’re not conscious of. What you’re wearing sounds fine for me and I’m not suggesting a radical overhaul of your wardrobe, but observe whether your female peers dress differently to you. You want to present as strong, self-assured and play down the feminine without looking like a man (which I think is as bad as looking ultra feminine). Your dress might be absolutely fine, but it’s all about impressions and how people are reading us.

I’m very assertive but my dress is professional but feminine without being flirty or sexy. Sexism is an issue where I work too so I’m conscious of how I present.

Just for your info, you’re coming across here as a bit defensive (I’m not being mean or nasty here). If you do that at work, people will jump on you. What I’m suggesting is observe how other women, dress and behave and see if you can follow suit (if it works for you without being forced).

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